Knesset approves 2019 state budget
Finance minister delighted as lawmakers approve in 2nd and 3rd Knesset readings his long-crafted economic policy that will see NIS 73 billion injected into defense and NIS 64 billion pumped into education; 'I promised that the budget would pass at a predetermined time without threats and extortion.'
The budget, which was at the heart of the coalition crisis, passed with 62 MKs backing it and 54 voting against it.
As part of a deal struck on Tuesday evening to avert early elections, the United Torah Judaism (UTJ) party consented to backing the budget on condition that its IDF conscription bill designed to exempt Haredim from military service passed its preliminary reading in the Knesset.
The controversial draft bill passed with a 59 MK majority, with 38 MKs voting against it, with no abstentions.
Speaking at the Knesset Plenum ahead of the second and third readings, Kahlon said that he had lived up to his promise by bringing it to a vote.
"A week ago, I said that the people of Israel would sit at the Seder night either with a budget or without a finance minister. Tonight we can say that the people of Israel will sit for the holiday meal with a budget and with a finance minister," he said, referring to the feast of Passover.
"I promised that the budget would pass at a predetermined time without threats and extortion—and I delivered," he added, boasting it would be "the most socially-driven (budget) the people of Israel have ever had."
“This budget is for all citizens of the State of Israel, not for the coalition and not for the opposition,” the finance minister proudly proclaimed. “It isn’t for people who were born into money, and it isn’t for a new or old resident. The budget reflects social values and national priorities. That has been my policy and that of the Finance Ministry since the first state budget at the end of 2015 to the present 2019 state budget.
“I stood for the state budget passing because whoever harms it harms the citizens of the State of Israel.”
The largest sums of the budget are earmarked for defense (NIS 73 billion), education (NIS 64 billion), health (NIS 42 billion) and national insurance (NIS 46 billion).
Another NIS 20 billion will be pumped into public transport and NIS 19 billion into the Ministry of Public Security. Both higher education and the Ministry of Welfare will receive a financial injection of NIS 11 billion each, while local authorities will receive NIS 6 billion and the Ministry of Housing will get a NIS 5.3 billion boost.
As the recently resolved crisis deepened over the last few weeks and threatened to dismantle the coalition, Kahlon was unequivocal in his position, stating that if the budget—a hallmark of his economic policy—did not pass, he would not be able to remain in office.
"Without this budget, I would have no public mandate, and I would be violating my agreement with the voter. I don’t see how I would be able to remain finance minister," Kahlon said at a Kulanu faction meeting.
He also stressed his party was "not in favor of early elections. Whoever wishes to drag us to elections is harming the public. I hope our friends in the coalition will come to their senses."